70 years on, hundreds see anniversary flypast for Dambusters

A Lancaster bomber during the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight performs a flypast over the Derwent Reservoir
A Lancaster bomber during the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight performs a flypast over the Derwent Reservoir
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HUNDREDS of well-wishers gathered at Derwent Reservoir today to watch a flypast by a Lancaster bomber to mark the 70th anniversary of the war-time Dambuster raids.

A Mark X1X spitfire flew over the historic twin towers of the 183m dam followed by the Lancaster, both from the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

Spectators wait for the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight flypast over the Derwent Reservoir

Spectators wait for the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight flypast over the Derwent Reservoir

It was followed by two tornado GR4s from the current 617 squadron.

The dam, in the Hope Valley in Derbyshire, was used by the airmen for practice runs in the weeks leading up to the daring raids of 16-17 May 1943.

Members of the public, some flying Union flags, and media climbed up to 300m in nearby woodland to get a vantage point from which to watch the historic spectacle today.

The spitfires represented reconnaissance flights carried out before and after the raids, which took place during the Second World War.

The Lancaster represented the 19 bombers of the 617 squadron, which was specifically formed just two months before the top-secret mission, codenamed Operation Chastise.

Meanwhile the two GR4s, painted with commemorative tail art featuring a dam with water coming out of it, represented the current 617 squadron.

The aircraft continued on to nearby Chatsworth House to carry out a flypast for members of the public who had gathered at the stately home.

The raid, carried out by 133 airmen in 19 Lancaster bombers, was an attempt to cripple a major part of the Nazi war economy by carrying out attacks on three dams in the industrial heartland of Germany.

Fifty-six of the men did not return from the mission, which required them to fly the Lancaster bombers at just 60ft above the ground - incredibly low when compared with the 250ft aircraft must fly at nowadays - in the dark across northern Europe.

The mission, which flew out of RAF Scampton, near Lincoln, was led by wing commander Guy Gibson and was credited with boosting morale across Britain.

The planes, armed with scientist Dr Barnes Wallis’ bouncing bombs, flew to the Ruhr Valley either side of midnight on May 16,

Roy Taylor, 66, from Hadfield in North Derbyshire, was among spectators who made the steep climb up the side of the valley to watch the flypast today.

Mr Taylor, who used to work in the aircraft industry, said: “I was very impressed. The flying was superb. The raids were phenomenal and must have given the people heart during the war.

“I think events like this make us remember the sacrifice those young lads made during the raid. They never got the recognition they deserved I don’t think.”

John Porter, 35, from Manchester had gone along with his son Jack today.

He said: “I thought it was important to come here today as it’s part of our history isn’t it? It was a great sight to see the Lancaster come roaring over.”

Jack, eight, said: “I can’t believe they flew so low in the dark. They were very brave. It was brilliant to see the Lancaster today.”

The flypast is one of several events taking place to mark the anniversary of the raids.

Later a sunset ceremony will take place at RAF Scampton. Veterans and invited guests will gather for the event, which is set to include a further flypast by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and 617 squadron.

The Mohne and Eder dams were breached during the raid and the Sorpe damaged.

The attack was immortalised by the 1955 film starring Michael Redgrave and Richard Todd.

Even with the loss of life, the operation was hailed an incredible success at the time but in recent decades historians have downplayed its effects.